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A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19


Last updated: 26 July 2021 15.53

This directory has been designed to help you keep track of new changes being introduced to the benefits system as a result of the coronavirus.

We hope that this summary of the latest updates provides a useful source of reference. For further guidance relating to COVID-19, visit this page.

 

Accessible information

If you have accessibility needs or care for someone who has, you can get support with claiming benefits and pensions.

There are adjustments that can be made to help anyone experiencing difficulty using the phone, reading letters or going online to name just a few examples. Please see this guidance for further information.


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Assessments

DurIng March 2020, all face-to-face assessments were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been announced that certain face-to-face disability assessments will resume from May 2021. Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based assessments, and telephone assessments will continue where suitable. For the latest updates, you can visit the Gov.uk website

To ensure that assessment centres are meeting COVID-19 safety measures, on 29 March 2021, new detailed guidance was published for claimants and assessment providers.

NHS Continuing Healthare or NHS-funded nursing care

As of 1 September 2020, it is no longer possible for the NHS to delay assessments for NHS Continuing Healthare or NHS-funded nursing care due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. If you had a booked appointment for an assessment that was delayed, you should now be able to get a date. 

What are the new Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020?

The government has introduced some changes to the Care Act (2014) on a temporary basis and only to be applied when absolutely essential. They are designed to help local authorities if their workforce is significantly reduced or the demand on social care increases to the point where they are forced to alter or prioritise their services.

For carers, this still means that local authorities must respond to requests for care and support, but if your local authority has decided to “switch on” these easements, detailed assessments may not be carried out as before. If you’re asking for a Needs Assessment for the person you care for or a Carer's Assessment for yourself, we would suggest asking if there are any delays or additional information you need to be aware of, and discussing any concerns you have.

All assessments and reviews must be followed up and completed in full once the easements end. People will not currently have to undergo a financial assessment but may be charged retrospectively for any care and support received during this period.

For more details, refer to the government’s guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to the Care Act 2014.
 


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Attendance Allowance

If you are already receiving Attendance Allowance, you will continue to do so throughout the COVID-19 period. 

You can still apply for Attendance Allowance if you’re eligible for the benefit. For information about the rates and criteria to apply, see our Attendance Allowance page. Once you have applied, the Department of Work and Pensions should get in touch with you directly to advise on how to proceed with having an assessment safely, if necessary, during this period.

If your circumstances have changed (for example your condition has deteriorated and you believe you're entitled to a higher amount), you can also request a review by phone or by post. see this Attendance Allowance Gov.uk page for contact details.


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Benefits review?

Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, it's possible that your household income might have decreased or changed, and now may be a good time to have a benefits check. For example, you may have become entitled to financial assistance through welfare benefits.

You could contact our Helpline to request a review at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or perhaps try out the online benefits calculator provided by the financial assistance charity, Turn2Us: carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-benefits/turn2us-benefits-calculator


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Carer's Allowance

Some of the rules for Carer's Allowance have been eased during the coronavirus pandemic. These changes will be extended according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The adjustments were due to finish at the end of May, but they have now been extended for a further three months – until the end of August.

Note that you can only claim Carer's Allowance benefit if someone you’re looking after is already receiving a qualifying disability benefit. Find out more on our main page.

COVID-19 related changes (until end of August 2021)

If you have to have a temporary break from caring because you have contracted coronavirus – or care for someone who gets it – and have to self-isolate as a result, you will still be entitled to receive Carer's Allowance. 

In addition, the government has confirmed that providing ‘emotional support’ will count towards the 35 hours needed to claim the benefit. This also applies to carers who live in a different household from someone they care for, where contact is only possible through the form of emotional support provided via the telephone and social media.

These measures (introduced on 30 March) apply whether or not you’re making a new claim or are already claiming Carer’s Allowance.

In Scotland
In addition to Carer's Allowance, if you live in Scotland and are receiving Carer's Allowance on particular dates (12 April and 11 October 2021), you may be entitled to an additional payment called the 'Carer’s Allowance Supplement’. You can read more about this here.


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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme/ Job Support Scheme

The government has introduced a temporary scheme, referred to as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to support UK employers whose operations have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. You can read more about this here

A similar scheme has been introduced for those who are self-employed. You can find out more about the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) under Self-employment in the list below.

Has the Coronavirus Job Retention/Furlough Scheme been extended?

Yes, the scheme has been extended to the end of September 2021 with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. You can find out more here.

I was not on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme originally. Can I still be furloughed?

You can check whether this is possible here. Here, the government outlines the eligibility criteria. Your employer must refer you to the scheme; it is not possible to refer yourself. 

Extra financial support for businesses

If your business has been affected by the coronavirus restrictions, you may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants, whether it is open or closed. See this webpage for more information.


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Council Tax/rate relief

Help with your Council Tax bill

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, you could get in touch with your local authority or trust (in Northern Ireland) to see if they can allow you to defer payments or to see if they can offer any form of discount or support to help.

See our main Help with Council Tax/ rate relief page to find out about your rights and for more ideas for saving money.

In light of COVID-19, the government has pledged support for renters through increases in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. 

In England, the government provided support through the Council Tax COVID-19 hardship fund 2020-21


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Debt/money worries

(UK wide) If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender. If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score. See our Help with debt page for other useful sources of support.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have launched a new coronavirus support service to help those who are vulnerable and struggling with tax problems to claim the support they are now entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

In England, people on low incomes who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with a high incidence of COVID-19 could benefit from a one-off payment. For more details, see our frequently asked questions

If you think you may need financial support from your local authority in England, you may also be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund. Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.

For those most adversely affected financially by the latest restrictions, there is information about support schemes available here.

In Wales, people on low incomes who have coronavirus or have been told to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service are now able to apply for a £500 payment. The Self-Isolation Support Payment scheme has been extended until June 2021. It is now open to applications from people with a personal income of less than £500 per week and those on Basic Statutory Sick Pay or New Style Employment and Support Allowance who have been asked to self-isolate by Test, Trace, Protect service, the NHS Covid-19 App or by their child’s education setting.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has put in place a non-repayable grant payment programme to assist those in financial difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate. Read more on the nidirect.gov.uk page. 

In Scotland, if you have had the coronavirus or have been told to self-isolate, you may be able to apply for a £500 payment.

Families and individuals in Scotland facing emergency situations can also apply for a Crisis Grant from their local authority through the Scottish Welfare Fund. An additional £45 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund has been announced, which more than doubles the current £35.5m Fund. To find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund and how you might apply visit here. The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund will also re-open for a second round.

From 7 December, the £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant has been extended to include parents on low incomes whose children (aged under 16) are asked to self-isolate and who have to take time off work as a result. It will also be available to those who would be eligible for Universal Credit even if they have not claimed it. Find out more here. Further information about support available to low-income families can be found here.

If you are contacted by 'Test and Protect' in Scotland and are on a low income, you may be eligible for a self-isolation grant. Find out more here and for details of other forms of financial assistance, see this page.


test-and-trace-support-scheme-england-faqs.pdf
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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If you’re already receiving DLA, you should continue to be paid this as before. For details about the benefit and rates, see our Disability Living Allowance page. You can still apply if you think you’re eligible.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not required to attend an assessment for a disability benefit face to face. Face-to-face assessments were suspended from 17 March 2020, and reviews and reassessments were also put on hold. Although some face-to-face assessments have resumed for several benefits from May 2021, this does not currently include assessments for DLA. Where required, telephone assessments will be arranged instead. For the latest updates you can visit the Gov.uk website

Please note that if your circumstances have changed (for example, your child's condition has deteriorated and you believe they're entitled to a higher amount), you can still request a review by phone or by post. Do contact our Helpline if you have any specific queries by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you live in Northern Ireland.

 


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Employment and Support Allowance (New Style)

This is a type of benefit that you may be able to apply for if you are ill or have a disability that affects your ability to work. To find out if you are eligible, visit this Gov.uk page.

New style Employment and Support Allowance is a fortnightly payment and for eligible claimants who are directly affected by COVID-19, it is payable from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance.

Phone interviews are being carried out currently in place of face-to-face interviews and assessments. Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside existing paper-based and telephone assessments for Work Capability Assessments for ESA, initially only for those who cannot access other channels.

If you are eligible and affected by COVID-19, you can also be paid from day one rather than day eight of sickness.


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End of life planning/bereavement

We have brought together some guidance to help you get through difficult times and prepare for the loss of someone close to you, especially during this very difficult period when many services are not operating as before. 

Understanding that there is much to take on board, both emotionally and on a practical level, we have tried to break down our guidance by suggesting some steps to follow. 

What is advance care planning? Read our guidance.

I need to find out more about how to deal with grief. See our guidance.

Practical matters – what needs to be done following a death? Read our guidance.

Registering the death – what happens now? Read our guidance.

What needs to be considered when arranging a funeral? See our guidance.


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Hospitals - preparing and leaving

You may have been rapidly thrown into the role of caring for someone and feel underprepared. Or perhaps the needs of someone you have cared for over time, have suddenly changed. Uncertainty about what to do and how to cope can be a big source of anxiety.

Our planning for emergencies page offers tips on how to relieve these worries by preparing for the unexpected, such as a sudden visit to hospital. Once there, the ward staff should help patients communicate with those they are close to by phone or video, where possible. Providing permission and related information as part of a documented plan in advance may be useful. For example, you could indicate who you would like to be kept informed as key contacts.

Our guidance can also help you prepare for someone you care for coming out of hospital. Knowing what questions to ask and what to expect can help you both cope with any change of circumstances. 

If you are able to visit someone in hospital, remember that use of face coverings is mandatory. Check the hospital's website in advance to ensure that you follow their guidance and protocols. Also see the government's guidance on hospital discharge

Hospital discharge to care homes

All patients who are discharged from hospital will be tested, as a matter of course, before going into care homes. 


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Housing support

Housing Benefit was increased from 6 April 2020. From April, an extra £1 billion over one year across the UK was allocated to help private renters, increasing Local Housing Allowance rates (to pay for at least 30% of average rents in all areas of the UK). See the latest government guidance.

Renting

If you are a tenant, you are still liable for your rent and should pay this as usual. If you are struggling to pay this, support is available and new measures mean that any landlord must provide reasonable notice if they wish to end the tenancy. For more details see this Gov.uk page.

Also see ‘Council Tax/ Rate Relief’ in this directory.

Support for Mortgage Interest loan

If you are a homeowner in receipt of Pension Credit (or other qualifying benefits) with an outstanding mortgage or a loan taken out for repairs and home improvements, you may qualify for a repayable Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) loan.


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Other benefits (incl. legacy benefits)

Legacy benefits (being gradually replaced by Universal Credit) include Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. These should continue to be paid during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Interviews for these benefits will not be carried out at job centres face-to-face; instead they are currently being conducted over the phone.

Housing Benefit was increased in the previous tax year (2020-21). In addition, Working Tax Credit was increased by £1,040 (and this has been extended for a further six months until September 2021). For the latest guidance on tax credits, see: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/working-tax-credit and https://www.litrg.org.uk/tax-guides/coronavirus-guidance/tax-credits-and-coronavirus

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance. See Employment and Support Allowance (new style) above for more information about the benefit.


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Overpayments

The government took the decision to stop recovering overpayments for three months during the COVID-19 pandemic from 4 April 2020. This included benefit overpayments, tax credit debts and social fund loans.

However repayments that were temporarily stopped because of the coronavirus are starting again. If money is usually taken from your benefits or pay, or you previously repaid them by Direct Debit, you do not need to do anything. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (or DfC in Northern Ireland) will write to you when repayments restart.

The DWP updated the Benefit overpayment recovery guide on 12 May 2021 following a judicial review. The guidance clarifies when and who may be eligible to request recoverable hardship payment(s) to be waived at the department’s discretion.


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Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

If you’re already receiving PIP, you should continue to be paid this as before. For details about the benefit and rates, see our Personal Independence Payment page.

In March 2020, all face-to-face assessments were suspended. However face-to-face disability assessments for Personal Independence payments resumed under cautious conditions from May 2021. Face-to-face assessments will take place alongside paper-based assessments. Telephone assessments will also continue to take place where suitable. For the latest updates you can visit the Gov.uk website.

The assessment centres and staff should be fully compliant with COVID-19 safety measures. More guidance for claimants can be found on the government website here. Detailed guidance for assessment providers is available here. This will be kept under review so check the current guidance.


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Self-employment

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

If you’re self-employed, you may be able to apply for a taxable grant that will cover 80% of your self-employment trading profit – up to £2,500 per month. This only relates to those who are self-employed whose trading profits are less than £50,000 and who make more than half of their total income from self-employment. To find out if you're eligible for the fifth grant, see this Gov.uk page for more details. 

Other sources of support

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to government guidance.

If you currently claim Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or need to make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily removed for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. See 'Universal Credit' in this index for more details.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have launched a new coronavirus support service to help those who are vulnerable and struggling with tax problems to claim the support they are now entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

Find out whether you are eligible for government finanical aid if your business has suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


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Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, if:

  • you have the coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you have been asked 'to shield' because of an underlying health condition or
  • you have to self-isolate (either because you have symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has).

Note that you can also apply for SSP if you cannot work and have to self-isolate because you live in the same household as someone who has displayed coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.

You can read more about this here. See our Working and caring section for more guidance if you are balancing work with caring.


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Universal Credit

You will continue to receive Universal Credit if already claiming this benefit. Find out more about the benefit and its rates on our Universal Credit page.

If you’re claiming this for the first time, you will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim. You can make a claim for an advance payment while you are waiting for your Universal Credit payment. 

The standard rate in Universal Credit and Tax Credits was increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April 2020. This uplift has been extended until the end of September 2021.

If you're currently claiming Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or intend to make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily removed until August 2021.

If you are eligible, we recommend claiming online as it is very difficult to get through to an adviser on the phone line owing to the large numbers making claims at this time. Find out more about the process here.

You do not need to attend an appointment at a Jobcentre Plus and any interviews can be carried out over the phone. However face-to-face assessments will be available alongside existing paper-based and telephone assessments initially for Universal Credit claimants who cannot use other channels.

For more information, see this Gov.uk page.


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